Kati O’Brian is not as big as most of her players, but her enthusiasm is off the charts.
After only a few days of practice with the Destin Middle School Marlin softball team as their new head coach, O’Brian said the team “is amazing.”
“They have come a long way in just a week’s time,” she said.
O’Brian is on the ball field every afternoon with the Marlins working through drills to get ready for the upcoming season, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Feb. 20 at home against Meigs.
After giving instruction on a certain skill set, O’Brian can be heard yelling “heard.”
The girls echo back “heard” to signify they understand what was said.
And at age 30, O’Brian has a good understanding of softball.
She got her start playing softball in Mary Esther Little League. After playing a year of Tee-ball at age 6, she jumped right into fast pitch softball as a 7 year old.
She then moved through the ranks of Bruner Middle School and then on to Fort Walton Beach High School where she started on varsity as a freshman during the district tournament.
From high school she went on to play Division I softball at the University of South Florida where she played left field during her freshman year.
“I just love softball, it’s my heart,” she said.
O’Brian said the highlight of her softball career is a toss up between her signing day with USF or catching Natasha Watley’s pop up to left field during the USF game against Team USA game, the Olympic softball team at the time.
“I had watched Natasha Watley play ball from the time I was 12 when she was a Bruin,” O’Brian said. “Hands down one of the best softball players of all time.”
Besides working with the Destin Marlin softball team, O’Brian works full time as a mortgage loan officer with Element Funding in Miramar Beach.
Last year, in her first year as a loan officer, she closed 23 loans from April to December. This year she has already closed on six.
In addition to softball and work, she also has two children, Eli, 8, and Ansleigh, 5. Eli will be helping out with the Marlins as bat boy.
With her plate already full so-to-speak, O’Brian said she was a little hesitant about taking on the coaching job.
“I originally was fearful of the commitment it takes. Because if I’m going to commit to anything, I’m going to give it a 110 percent,” O’Brian said.
And from the moment she hits the practice field with the team, she’s full on.
“Kati brings a wealth of energy and passion for the game. She is also super competitive,” said Daniel Griffin, Destin Middle athletic director. “She will teach the kids to love the game and to play the game at a very high level.
"She will ask a lot of them, but at that the same time she is asking she will be doing right alongside them,” he added.
During practice, she can be seen running alongside players around the bases.
Griffin said O’Brian will teach the players much more than the sport of softball.
“Softball is just the tool she will use,” he said. “Destin Middle School and our program will be better for having her around.”